Ecocritical Interpretation

Suitable for both A level students and teachers new to ecocriticism, this invaluable study guide offers a concise, clear explanation of environmental theory, with detailed interpretation and analysis of a variety of texts.

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Poisoned and poisonous: The Loney, by Andrew Michael Hurley.

In The Loney, Hurley conjures a mystic, bleak yet beautiful landscape that is the backdrop for a story where the relationship between the human and the landscape is so much a focus of the work that it becomes an ecocritical text in its own right. Hurley depicts a landscape poisoned by human activities and which has become, in its turn, poisonous. Environmental theory, then, may search beyond the mysterious beauty of the novel’s location for the more unpleasant reality of a damaged natural world.

The Loney – a ‘wild and useless length of English coastline’ (p 4) – is a spoiled place. It is ‘desolate’; the bay is a ‘dead mouth’. Hurley points to human actions for the cause of this sickened landscape, referring to ‘old industry’ (p 5). Everywhere, there is evidence of human carelessness and malpractice: jetties have been ‘abandoned in the sludge’; the old causeway is now ‘a line of rotten black posts’. There are ‘remnants’; all is ‘rusting’; a wooden lighthouse is merely a ‘stump’. It is a picture of (human) ruin and waste.

The coastline of the Loney is depicted as ‘an immense distance of grey’; the sea is a ‘grim plain’ (p 40). Hurley evokes a sense of a place haunted in the region’s ‘sudden mist, a mumble of thunder over the sea’. The wind is ‘scurrying… with its crop of old bones’. Here, the sibilance of ‘immense distance’ and ‘sudden mist’ evokes the sound of the slow sweep of the tides. The onomatopoeic ‘mumble’; the assonance of ‘mumble’ and ‘thunder’ together – all work to create a landscape of latent power. Contrast these with the monosyllabic ‘grim’ and ‘plain’; the effect is to evoke a sense of the changeable and fickle nature of the environment. The wind is personified, the dynamic verb ‘scurrying’ giving us a sense of the natural world ill at ease; filled perhaps with discontent.

© Ali Cargill 2016